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Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning

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This book, in a word, is about documentation. Sounds boring, doesn't it? Documentationthe collection of documents prepared over the course of a projectis, in many ways, the underbelly of web design. After all, documents usually appear on paper and end up sitting on a shelf where no one reads them. How cool could that be?

But anyone who has worked to design a web site knows that documentation can make or break the project, that it moves the process along by capturing the design concept and helps project team members communicate with each other. Web design documentsor "deliverables," as they're sometimes calledalso serve as milestones, marking progress in an otherwise seemingly interminable process. They're historical, allowing people who come to a project later to get up to speed on the decisions made by earlier project teams.

In short, a document captures an idea. Perhaps this is a little existential for the web design business but, getting down to brass tacks, if we can't communicate an idea effectively, how can we hope to create a web site around it?

The value of good documentation is indisputable, but there's very little discussion about it in the web design canon. This isn't to say that deliverables have never been addressed. Stumble onto the blog of any designer or information architect and you're bound to see at least one article on effective wireframing, or a set of shapes to use in a flow chart. But on a larger scale, there has never been a careful look at what makes design documentation effective.

On the surface, this book will help you improve your documentation, providing advice on how to plan your deliverables and use them effectively in meetings and on projects. In the course of doing so, it will also attempt to uncover what makes a document good, and help you recognize the difference between a bad document and a bad idea.

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